The Shirt

April 28, 2009
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A hoard of laughter erupted from the picnic table on my left. I didn’t dare turn to face them. The humiliation had already cut too deep into my self-esteem. With all my effort I pushed my broken spirit off the rough sidewalk and sprinted to the huge oak doors. Perhaps it was the pain in my knees; perhaps it was the humiliation, I don’t know. But I just ran up those steep and crumbling steps, trying to restrain the tears welling in my eyes.
God this is exactly what I wanted to avoid. I hate humiliation and look what I did! I was already overly embarrassed before I fell in front of all of them, and now---I shuffled my corpse to n empty red chair where my fellow classmates sat. Their mothers chattered to one another over the new gossip. My knees dripped with blood, and my palms, scraped and bruised from the impact, stung. I stared blankly at the wounds, not sure of what to do. One of the mothers seated a few chairs to my right notices my teary eyes and bloody wounds.
“Oh dear, are you all right?” Her voice was deep with concern.
I nodded. I stared down at my lap. I could not allow myself verbalize my pain. I was too afraid that opening my mouth would only usher sobs. That was the last thing that I needed.
The plump mother waddled into the bathroom and after a moment, came out with some wet paper towels. Kneeling, she applied the towels to my wounds. A sharp pain cut through my knee but I did not dare to move. I just sat there, biting my lip and staring down at my oversized shirt. What a stupid shirt.
My mother had made me wear my father’s old t-shirt to class so I wouldn’t get any paint on my clothes. It was greasy and splotched with who knows what kind of stains. My knees hid under the curtain of loose fabric that billowed in the wind. It was so grotesque that even a vagabond would snub his nose in disgust. Come on mom, I’m eight! Don’t you think I could wear something a bit classier than this? But my mother made me pull it over my blonde head and walk, alone, to art class.
Now that wouldn’t have been so bad, I mean everyone in my art class had to wear an old t-shirt because we were painting today. But then I saw the boy scouts. They were cute, they were older than me, and they were intimidating. They would surely laugh when they saw me strolling down the sidewalk in this drab. Walking was not an option. I would just speed by their quizzical stares and leap into the Rec. Center, no problem. But to my dismay there was a crack in the pavement precisely placed and I found it. Irony is not my friend.
The bleeding had just about subsided when my art teacher opened the door to the classroom. Through the dimly lit hall, she noticed my wounds. Her normally upbeat and peppy demeanor melted into compassion as her eyes met mine. Swiftly, she floated over to a cabinet and extracted some band-aids and sanitary wipes.
“Oh Em, What in the world happened?” She cooed.
“Nothing.” I squeezed out. A wall of tears erupted from my eyes. They rolled down my cheeks and dropped bitterly onto the shirt. That stupid shirt. My body gasped for air between my long and relentless sobs.

A dainty arm slid over my shoulders, softly rubbing my back and quieting my sobs. Through my well of tears I managed to see the large oak doors open once more and a tall, bearded man briskly trot over to my side.
“Are you alright?” He asked. His voice was horse but full of concern. He smiled at me sweetly and turned to the mother who was applying my band-aids.
“Just a few scrapes. What happened?” The plump mother replied.
“She tripped on the sidewalk while I was leading a troop meeting” His gaze was enveloped in sympathy. “The boys, well, they weren’t so nice about it.”
“They laughed at me” I whispered. One final tear leaked from its faucet.
“I’m so sorry.” He stood there, wavering in place, hands thrust into his pockets, unsure of what to do.
The mother got up from her knees and stared at my tear-stained face. My teacher reached out her soft hands to mine. I took it and slid off of the wobbly red chair. There was nothing I could do but move on.
“Thanks” I murmured and finished solemn limp to art class.
I couldn’t help but think of what I had wanted; a safe and unembarrassing trip to art class. No fall, no blood, no crack, no boy scouts, and especially no shirt. That old, greasy, massive shirt. Without warning it wounded my knees, and broke my spirit. It made me bleed. And I couldn’t help but think, what a stupid shirt.

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